Last week I talked a little bit about how we treat the sacrament itself. We say it’s important, but our reverence for the sacrament usually only goes so far. We don’t think of the sacrament as food and so the idea that we might to reflect the spiritual richness of the sacrament with a physical richness doesn’t come to mind.
Food is an intrinsic part of our life and nearly everything we do revolves around it in one way or another. Food sustains our life. We look for food every day because we need it to live. Even though Jesus says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” we don’t take the statement all that seriously. The truth is that we treat food as the source of life, for we know, in the back of our minds, that without it we die.
The manna God rains down for the Israelites in the wilderness comes as a direct response to their need for food. Of course, the Israelites thought God had no interest in caring for His chosen people and were happy to go back to slavery, thinking they’d receive better care there. God gave them bread in abundance. Each day there would be bread to eat, with the exception of the Sabbath, when they would eat the bread saved from the day before. They couldn’t store it for later, except for the Sabbath. Gathering more than they needed would accomplish nothing. Each day they had to trust that God would provide and each day that food would arrive right on cue.
The lesson they were meant to learn is that life comes from God, not creation. God can move heaven and earth, quite literally, if He chooses to, and He does so for the good of His people. They were meant to recognize that food does give life, but only because it comes from God. Looking to food as the source of life means making an idol of creation. This is essentially what Adam and Eve do in the garden. They look to the forbidden fruit as the source of divine life and, in so doing, lose the eternal life God had already given them.
By taking bread and wine and instilling within them His own life, Christ restores food to its proper place. No longer does it need to be the source of life, as we usually think of it, for God directs us to look to Him instead. In Communion we are taught that it is the Body and Blood of Christ that grants us eternal life, not the bread and the wine. By partaking in the sacrament, we learn again what it means to put our trust in God for salvation and life. We see the sacrament as a gift from God, as it should be. However, it is not just the grace of God the meal that is the gift, it is also the food itself. In the sacrament, all food is able to resume its intended place in our lives, that of a gift.
As we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, we think about the food we’ll share together as family and friends. We give thanks for the food we are given. In doing so, we should also remember that it is because of the meal we share with our Christian brothers and sisters and with God Himself that we are able to give thanks for food, because God has restored Himself as the Lord and Giver of Life in our lives. Now food doesn’t need to try and do more than it is capable of doing. It can simply be a gift from God and, because it is a gift, we can take the time to truly enjoy it.